HOLLISTER (CBS SF) – The fast-rising waters of Pacheco Creek forced emergency crews to use watercraft to rescue residents early Wednesday in the Lovers Lane area near Hollister.
San Benito County Office of Emergency Services manager Kevin O’Neill said Cal Fire got a call around 2 a.m. from local residents reporting that the creek had overflowed its banks and their homes were being flooded.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered for 50 homes in the area and water rescue teams were called in from San Jose and Santa Clara County to help residents get to drier ground.
By the time the teams arrived, the water had grown to 5-7 feet deep in some areas, flooding the first floor of many homes in the rural area south of Highway 152.
In the end, the rain-swollen Pacheco Creek flooded 30 homes and hundreds of acres of farmland along Highway 152 in rural San Benito County.
A truck evacuated the last few horses from a ranch on Lovers Lane that went underwater at about 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.
“I’ve never been through such water. It was like being on a river on a raft. That’s how fast it was going,” said ranch worker Armando Rodriguez. “Water just tore everything down, fences, everything.”
Using rafts and fire trucks, Hollister rescue crews evacuated 20 people from flooded homes.
Area resident Willie Ortner used his raised 4×4 to evacuate a dozen more.
“It’s super bad. You can’t get through,” said Ortner, “I got a call from my dad at about one, saying water was coming in his house. So I got him out and have been helping the guys get others out.”
Officials said 49 people required some kind of assistance to leave their homes while nearly 60 others were able to escape on their own. Livestock was also rescued from the flood waters.
The residents who were evacuated were transportation to a center in Hollister.
Water levels remained high all day, marooning cattle on small barnyard mounds that became islands.
Several goats and sheep found a dry spot on top of a shed.
As residents in the area begins to clean up, many were left wondering how such a flood could sneak up on them.
“They said there would be flash floods, but not like this, you know? Not as big as it was today,” said one resident.